By Paul Dottino
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Speed and size. Speed and size. Speed and size.
Giants general manager Jerry Reese must have been repeating these words over and over again in his sleep during the weeks leading up the NFL Draft.
Every one of his eight picks has at least one of these traits and most have shown a combination of both, which – at the very least – will allow the mid-to-lower round picks to upgrade a sub par special teams unit.
“We try to do that,” Reese said of the traits he was looking for. “(WR-KR Jerrel) Jernigan, we got him, a fast player, a return specialist. (LB Jacquain) Williams is a fast linebacker. (SS) Tyler Sash is a height, weight, speed safety. (RB) Da’Rel Scott, if he makes it as a third running back, he’s incredibly fast. All of those guys will play on special teams.
“That’s a little bit of the method to the madness up there (in the War Room),” continued Reese. “We try to get a lot out of every pick. Everything goes into consideration. How does this guy help us on special teams? That’s one of the main issues with us – how does this guy help us on special teams?”
The Giants obviously expect the biggest impact to come from their first two picks – CB Prince Amukamara and DT Marvin Austin — with director of college scouting Marc Ross explaining both were Top-15 talents.
We won’t bore you with each player’s specifics, rather here are several thoughts and questions about the Giants’ weekend shopping spree:
Most surprising pick: North Carolina DT Marvin Austin, 2nd round. Nobody could predict the fate of the Tar Heels, Austin among them, who were suspended last season by the program for their connection to an agent. And Austin was benched for two games in 2008 after he was late for class. Even if you put aside his poor decision-making, he’s only played once – the 2011 East-West Shrine Game – since January 2010 and you have to wonder how much the lack of playing time has hindered his development. The Giants believe he’s a motivated player who’s coming into the NFL with something to prove.
Most logical pick: Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara, 1st round. This is a no-brainer. A cover corner, who some NFL scouts rated as the top cover guy in the draft, unexpectedly falls out of the Top 10 and lands in the Giants’ lap at No. 19. He easily was the highest remaining player on their board, several spots ahead of Alabama RB Mark Ingram. The Giants expect to be a good team for the next couple of years, meaning they likely won’t be drafting high enough in the first round to get a corner of this caliber in the foreseeable future.
Best decision(s): The Giants received a call while they were on the clock at No. 19 and asked to swap down several spots with the benefit of adding a middle-round pick, but Reese quickly declined. This trade might have resulted in Amukamara and Alabama RB Mark Ingram – the two highest available players on the Giants’ board at No. 19 – being gone by the time they got back on the clock with in their new first-round position. Later, Reese said he might test the waters Saturday to move up into the fifth round – the Giants already had dealt this pick to Minnesota in last year’s Sage Rosefels trade – but nothing materialized and he wound up adding four more players who should compete for roster spots.
What the team accomplished: Yes, speed and size. Reece is counting on rookie production – at least on a part-time basis – from Amukamara, Austin and third-round WR Jerrel Jernigan, a diminutive and speedy game-breaking kick returner. Jernigan also should function as a shifty slot receiver if veteran Steve Smith is slow to recover from knee surgery. Each of the draft picks – maybe with the exception of Austin and fourth-round Indiana OT James Brewer – have the ability to upgrade the kick coverage units. Brewer is considered a developmental tackle, whom the Giants hope to mold into a starter in much the same way they did with former fifth-rounder David Diehl (2003). Scott will compete with oft-injured veteran Danny Ware for the third RB spot that would become critical should Ahmad Bradshaw not return.
What’s still missing: There’s no telling what the labor situation will be or how it will affect free agency, but it’s clear the Giants have to address some thin spots on their roster. Reese declined to discuss how his plans, but he already knew he wasn’t going to be able to get an impact linebacker in this draft so he’s likely hoping a quality veteran comes free. He’s also got to be concerned about the health of his centers (Shaun O’Hara, Adam Koets, Rich Seubert finished last season on the sideline). And the Giants do not have a prototype tight end to back up the gutsy but often-banged up Kevin Boss, putting a strain on the running game when he’s sidelined or not at full strength.
What’s next: We wait. Going into the draft, NFL teams were going open their off-season programs on Monday. Those plans were cancelled when the lockout was put back in place Saturday night. No training program. No rookie mini-camp. No free agency. Nothing.
“It is a little strange,” Reese said after the draft ended. “Everybody is upstairs looking at each other wondering what do we do now?”
What’s your take on the Giants’ Draft? Leave a comment below.